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Secrets of a Long Marriage

Dear Dr. Laura,

I have been listening to you since the beginning of your radio career. I wanted to write because I am dumbfounded by how easily couples divorce and families become fractured. There is an expectation in marriage that we will live happily ever after and if that doesn't happen, well, there's always divorce.

I am 55 years old and have been married for 35 years. I met my husband at 16 and married at 20. I would not recommend marrying this young to anyone, but it might interest you to hear what we have survived over the years.

Life was peachy until our son was about three and began exhibiting some disturbing symptoms. At six, our son was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, OCD and ADHD. It was during this time I began having multiple miscarriages. I dreamed of having a "normal" child. When I finally managed to maintain a pregnancy, our daughter was born with cerebral palsy, intellectual impairment and autism. Now I had two high-needs children to care for. The doctor bills started piling up and my husband worked his tail off to pay the bills. It seemed like years went by where we barely spoke. I distinctly remember driving down the street saying over and over again, "I hate my life. I hate my life. I hate my life."

Several things could have happened at this point. Either one of us could have asked for a divorce, had an affair, become alcoholics, taken drugs, abused each other or simply checked out. But that never occurred to either of us. The only option was to push through it. Life's not always fun and life's not fair.

But wait, there's more.

When our kids were in their teens things seemed to settle down a bit, or at least we had adapted to our challenges and learned to cope. Then I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. A couple years later, at age 47, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. He underwent two stem cell transplants and was sick for a year. During this time, our disabled daughter had severe, unremitting behavior problems. Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Through it all, my husband and I never talked about separation or divorce. We haven't always liked each other, but we have always treated each other with consideration and respect. Early in our marriage we used to joke that "whoever wants the divorce, gets the kids". That kept us both in line because we recognized that it was going to take both of us to parent and raise our children and we needed each other.

So pardon me if I don't have much patience with couples today. Marriage should hold the expectation it will be filled with great joy AND great sorrow. A lifelong marriage will inevitably hold both.



By the way, my therapy all these years has been knitting, weaving, spinning and beading. Great minds think alike!

Tags: Cancer, Divorce, Health, Parenting, Read On-Air
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